I basically have nothing great going on in my life so I made tonkotsu ramen with homemade broth. Tonkotsu ramen is pork bone ramen; that is, ramen noodle floating in broth made from freaking pork bones. Do not be confused with tonkatsu which is a pork cutlet which I have no idea how to make.
In addition to the broth, I also made Japanese braised pork belly to go with the ramen. Through my research, I've found out that there's a version of braised pork belly in every single Asian cuisine. I've only had Vietnamese braised pork belly and the Chinese twice-cooked bacon.
So the broth first. I followed the recipe from Tess's Japanese Kitchen.
I got the following items:
One pig's foot! About two pounds. Ask the butcher to slice it into small pieces for you. If you go to the Asian market, you can get this for less than $2/lb or something ridiculously cheap like that.
A piece of pork neck bone. Same tips as the pig's foot. It doesn't look like bones there, but believe me, there were bones with pieces of meat pathetically attached.
Boil the foot and the neck bone with about 10 pieces of chicken wings.
Boil until all of the brown gunk and junk get separated from the bones (about 5 minutes on rolling boil would do).
Drain and rinse with cold water.
Return the foot, neck bone, and wings back to the pot. Add in 1 onions (quartered), 1 leek, and a chunk of smashed up ginger.
Oops. I forgot that you can add a few pieces of seaweed, too.
Pour in enough water to cover everything and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to simmer and let the thing sit on the stove for 7 hours. As you can see, my pot is teeny tiny so I made do with the amount of water. Occasionally, I checked the water level and added in more.
After 7 hours, do this set up: giant bowl, strainer, then cheesecloth, or in my case, two pieces of Viva paper towels. Pour the broth through and strain the broth.
Note: I did not get paid for mentioning Viva, but I will tell you that they are the best paper towels I've ever used. They're like pieces of soft soft cloth.
It got a little sloppy at the end...
Et, voila! Fresh pee! Just kidding, IT'S PORK BONE BROTH! I actually got about 8 cups of broth (about twice what you see there) in the end. By the way, if your pee somehow looks cloudy like this, it's NOT normal, please consult a doctor because you're probably dying of some horrible disease. Okay, fine, I kid about that last part, too. But really, go see a freaking doctor!
Note 1: notice that I did not add any salt to the broth. This served as my "base" broth so that it'll stay "pure" for whatever usage I might have later besides making ramen.
Note 2: I made the broth a couple of days ahead of the final ramen day, so I kept it in tupperware in the freezer.
Note 3: I carefully stripped the bones of whatever meat is left to save the meat for later use. However, I sneaked in a taste and the meat was very very bland and dry. That is understandable since it sat in boiling water for 7 hours, so all of the fat and flavors were lost to the broth. However, I think if I drench it with BBQ sauce, it'd be edible.
Now onto the pork belly part. Helen sent me this recipe which was the one I used.
One pound pork belly, cut into strips about 1" thick.
Brown all sides with some oil.
Throw in some sliced ginger from a chunk about 1" long. Also add in a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste. Stir around quickly.
Toss in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir and flip and do whatever you can to coat the pork pieces with sugar. You will see a bunch of these photos because they were too pretty not to share.
The recipe said to add sake but I didn't have any, so I just added enough water to cover the pork plus about 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 2 star anise! Your kitchen should smell like heaven. I let that thing stew for 2 hours.
Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude! I sliced each pieces into three thinner pieces.
These are the vegetables to be included in my ramen: Shanghai bok hearts (that's what the grocery store named them), watercress, chives, chive blossoms, and enoki mushrooms.
Some fish cakes. I did not make these.
Here's the tricky part.
1. Scoop out about 4 tablespoons of the fatty brothy watery stuff from your pork belly pot into a large bowl (you can add more later if you want). In another large pot, start heating your pork bone broth.
2. Cook some ramen. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the noodles and add them to your large bowl of pork belly broth.
3. Use the same water to flash boil the vegetables. Remove vegetables from boiling water and add to the bowl of ramen.
4. Layer on top the sliced pork belly and fish cakes.
5. This is when your pork bone broth should begin to boil like mad. Ladle the pork bone broth into the large bowl of everything.
6. Add a dollop of chili garlic if you like.
7. Stir it up to mix well. Eat like a true fatty.
I know this sounds really complicated and filled with crazy steps, but they're really not. I will demonstrate this with the condensed recipe version that you can print out without my silly pictures.
Braised pork belly
My verdict of the whole ordeal? We all have our lazy days where we just want to cook top ramen with some vegetables and an egg for extra flair. Fair enough. I do that often. However, if you have time or nothing going on in your life like me, I suggest you make this at least once. The end result is freaking awesome(!) and it's a nice experience to learn to make stock and braise bacon.